A strong marriage has many components, one of which is communication. Communication is a vital tool in any relationship. Nothing gets done unless it is communicated.
Effective communication means active engagement on both ends, where one person speaks clearly and the other listens intently. When a marriage begins to fall apart, there is usually a lack of communication somewhere. Marriages that function well have open communication.
Here are four discussions that actually mean your love is strong:
1. The things you love and hate about each other the most
It's easier to dwell on the negative, but being able to tell your spouse what you love and hate about them is liberating for both of you. Spouses are both embracing their strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes in marriages you have to say the things that are hurtful to grow and improve as a couple.
2. Your deepest regrets in your relationship to date
We are supposed to forgive and forget, but sometimes it is hard to forget. Often times the wrongdoer wants to know that they are out of the doghouse so they prefer you keep the pain suppressed and live in the space of 'forgiveness.'
What if the other person has forgiven you but they are still dealing with the hurt? Sometimes the stage has not been set for forgiveness. Carry Wrigley writes, "We fear that if we forgive a mistake in ourselves or in someone else, it excuses the mistake and increases the likelihood that it will happen again."
An open conversation about the deepest regrets to date by both parties has the potential to open old wounds, but it has the potential to close them for good, if handled properly.
3. Your greatest dreams and plans to achieve them
We all have dreams. Some started when we were young and some cropped up later in life. As a child, I often envisioned myself standing in front of many students. Today I am a college professor and I love it. As a child, my wife envisioned owning her own business. She achieved that goal and loves it.
However, both dreams could not be reached at the same time. My schedule changes every semester. Getting my wife's business off the ground was costly, time-consuming, and required a lot of faith. It took a lot of planning, a lot of prioritizing, some tiresome days and sleepless nights for both of us.
We had to be realistic about the consequences of pursuing our dreams. We talked about it a lot. We listened to each other's dreams intently. In some parts of her dream, I was not present. In some parts of my dream, she had to take a back seat.
We did not get hung up on these parts. In the long run, we saw the two of us standing together, sharing in the outcome.
4. What is expected of the other spouse when the other passes away
Most wedding vows have an expiration date - when death separates the two spouses. The survived spouse is free from any promises made to their partner.
It's important to discuss what each spouse will expect of the other person when one passes on. What voice does the deceased really have in a person's life when that person is bewildered, alone and shouldering all the responsibilities?
A family friend couched his wife on paying the bills and how to go about executing his will after he died. He insisted that she enjoy the rest of her life. Another couple agreed that the remaining spouse would remarry.
How strong is your marriage? What do you think is missing? Suggest these conversation topics to your spouse and plan a time to have the conversation. I am sure you will enjoy the discussion and you will see that your relationship is growing.